Friday, May 29, 2015

reviews - A CHORUS LINE - Mesa Encore Theatre

Audrey Sullivan and Jean-Paoul Clemente (right side) 
and Cast
Photo: Ryan Roberts
highlights from local critic's reviews - (click link at bottom of the review highlights to read their complete reviews)

"A Chorus Line is one of the most well-known and beloved musicals of all time..that requires a large, multi-talented cast who can act, sing, and dance their asses off. Mesa Encore Theatre's production of this classic musical is quite good, with a cast that delivers and the end result is a winning production of a musical that still resonates today, forty years after it first premiered.... portrays an audition set in 1975 for the dancing chorus of a Broadway show. The people auditioning are mainly veteran dancers in their 20s through early 30s. The show ends with Zach, the director/choreographer, picking the eight dancers who will be in his show....But before the eight are picked, Zach asks the dancers to talk about their lives...What the dancers reveal about their lives has a universality to it and that is why I believe the show is still meaningful today—in some way, each of us has something in common with at least one, if not many of the dancers on the stage...The production at Mesa Encore Theatre is a little rough around the edges in terms of the cast, who are relatively young; a few just graduated high school and one talented cast member is only 14....A Chorus Line is a show about people who've lived and have learned life lessons along the way, which is kind of hard to fully get across if you're only 18....But these shortcomings are never enough to be a detriment to the overall enjoyment of the production....Jean-Paoul Clemente is Zach, the director/choreographer. While Clemente pulls off the look and demeanor of a slightly egotistic creative type, some of his line readings lack determination as does his brief dancing with the cast. Fortunately, he is very good in his two dialogue-heavy dramatic scenes, one with Zach's former lover Cassie, and the other with the somewhat introverted and shy Paul. Alan Khoutakoun as Paul has the show's best dramatic moment when he talks about realizing he is gay, finding himself, and about his father finally calling him "my son."...Khoutakoun is excellent, giving the monologue an exceptional delivery and making that moment in the show both beautiful and heartbreaking. Audrey Sullivan has the right amount of determination as Cassie...though her big solo dance number seems to lack a little sizzle. Fortunately, her dramatic confrontation with Zach more than compensates for the less than stellar "Music and the Mirror" number, with both Sullivan and Clemente excellent in this confrontational scene....Jacqui Notorio is superb as Sheila...Her sassy, biting line delivery and knowing glances let us know exactly what she's been through in her life...As Diana Morales, Megan Rose projects a clear sense of determination and understanding in her story and song about the acting teacher who underestimated her skills, "Nothing," as well as very nice vocals in her solo part of "What I Did for Love." Riane Roberts is a hoot as Val, the girl who realized a little plastic surgery was what was needed in order to improve her job prospects....Peter J. Hill's direction is clear, providing fluid transitions throughout as well as expert acting from the majority of the cast. Noel Irick's choreography is only somewhat similar to Bennett's original dance steps, but with some nice added original touches that really work...A Chorus Line is about the passion one has for something, which is a feeling everyone can relate to. MET's production, with just a few very small quibbles, is moving, touching, buoyant, and joyful. Although the cast is on the young side, the end result is a success, as the roughness and young age of some of the actors is offset by the sheer energy, excitement, and talent they all display." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"Mesa Encore Theatre (MET) is closing out their musical theatre season with A Chorus Line,...The local cast opened strong Friday night, embodying the show's theme that regardless of how polished and homogenous a stellar dance corps appears, it is without fail comprised of individuals greater than the resulting cookie cutter sum line....The ensemble idea served MET's cast well. Each actor's individual strengths surfaced as the show opened with "I Hope I Get It," designed to introduce that the story revolves around a cast of characters who are auditioning for roles as dancing chorus members in a Broadway show. By the end of the number, the varied crew had demonstrated a critical show piece: the choral sound and blend was rock solid..Kudos to Director Peter J. Hill, Musical Director Debra Jo Davey...Though the storyline portrays a dance audition, standout voices were apparent early on. Alan Khoutakoun's voice as Paul stole hearts with his first solo line in the first number, and when Kim Cooper-Schmidt as Maggie joined the "At the Ballet" trio, the beautiful strength of her voice was impossible to ignore. Corey Gimlin's (Al's) full range was also notable, particularly as a cute contrast to Al's tone deaf wife Kristine in "Sing."...Of course, in a dance show, the cast better be able to dance. MET's ensemble had feet flying in beautiful synchronicity for a good share of Friday's performance. Again, as individuals, several dancers were particularly bright. ... Cassie needs to have a unique flare and unrivaled grace onstage, and Audrey Sullivan did. Her dancing in "The Music and the Mirror" was excellent. Alan Khoutakoun (Paul) was perhaps even more notable in the dance numbers than he was as a vocalist in the first number, which was pretty extraordinary....the acting in MET's production had some particularly fine moments...Megan Rose as Diana created a wonderful empathy in "Nothing." The lovely irony in Cassie's monologue about her being the "girl who can't act" is that it took some healthy chops on actress Sullivan's part to pull it off. Cassie's complex, impassioned interaction with director Zach (Jean-Paoul Clemente) was moving as well.... Khoutakoun's monologue about Paul's covert background as a cross-dressing dancer and his strained family relations was chilling. ...A Chorus Line is a show that gets under the skin and deep into the lives of auditioners in the theatre world. Done right, like MET's current production, it emphasizes the multiple singular sensations necessary to become 'One.'" - Jennifer Haaland, Examiner.com (click here to read the complete review)

For more information on this production, that runs through June 7th, click here

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